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China Unicom, Alibaba Cloud launch cloud solution in Jhb

China Unicom, Alibaba Cloud launch cloud solution in Jhb

Ali Smart Access Gateway (SAG) based on software-defined network architecture.

International ICT and connectivity services provider China Unicom, who first entered the African telecommunications space in July 2018, has partnered with Alibaba subsidiary Alibaba Cloud to launch a new cloud access solution to the Africa market.

China Unicom set up operations in South Africa and confirmed its intention to focus on connectivity and ICT services, with specific attention to Chinese and "other Asian enterprises" that have presence in Africa, and African enterprises that have branches overseas.

Alibaba Cloud was established in 2009 and is the cloud computing arm of the Alibaba Group and according to IDC, was China's largest provider of public cloud services in 2016 by revenue.

On 6 September 2019 the companies officially launched the Ali Smart Access Gateway (SAG) based on software-defined network architecture. The solution combines China Unicom backbone network with three-layer overlay and switch virtualisation technology. It incorporates cloud connect network or SD-WAN technology to achieve the cloud network interconnection.

Dennis Meng: President, China Unicom Africa region, said the solution was introduced to meet a growing demand for cloud access solutions and internet connectivity within industries like retail, healthcare, property, eLearning, e-commerce and manufacturing.

Meng added that Alibaba became a strategic shareholder and partner in 2017. The companies have pooled resources and will leverage China Unicom's extensive global network coverage and Ali Cloud's computing capabilities to engage the Africa cloud market.

"As a public cloud provider, Ali Cloud can expand services geographically without heavy assets and China Unicom can deliver both communication telecom services and comprehensive cloud computing portfolios."

Meng said: "The go-to-market strategy is to utilise inside capabilities such as China Unicom global backbone resources, Ali Cloud technique and network traffic ... to take advantage of outside resources of the Belt and the Road which connect Africa to digital China and the world, with the co-branding and aggressive pricing strategy to deliver the product's unique value proposition and achieve competitive advantage in the emerging cloud market in Africa."

Liyan Zhao, President, China Unicom (Europe) Operations Limited, added that China Unicom views the product launch as a new milestone in the development of its business. "It is the very first CCN product launch overseas with exclusive cooperation between China Unicom and Ali Cloud (to) connect Africa to the world."

According to China Unicom the cloud in Africa has been generally "underplayed" and was slow to take off – often due to the lack of infrastructure, data protection concerns and conservative investment strategies.

"Now concerns about security and data sovereignty are starting to fall away in the face of consumer cloud acceptance. No doubt, the SAG-CCN outstanding feature will make way in Africa's cloud market," Meng continued.

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